Washington Post columnist Charles Lane has decided that public sector unions are undemocratic. This will be a surprise to every democracy in the world, since all of them have public sector unions.
The basic argument seems to be that since unions prevent elected officials from paying as little as they miight want to their workers, they interfere with democracy. This is a bit hard to follow. If a pension fund manager refuses to manage the state's pension fund for a $100 an hour wage, or a doctor refuses to work for $50 an hour for Medicaid, are these people interfering with democracy because they are not accepting the pay offered by an elected official?
Lane then complains that public sector unions make campaign contributions to the state officials with whom they negotiate. This is a reasonable complaint for someone who knows nothing about U.S. politics. It is standard for all sorts of people who do business with the government (e.g. defense contractors, construction companies, pension fund managers) to make campaign contributions to the people with whom they negotiate. It might not be pretty, but this is a problem that goes well beyond unions.
Lane then complains about the "rubber rooms" demanded by NYC in its negotiations with the teacher unions. The city required that teachers awaiting hearings on discipline charges come to school and sit for 8 hours a day. This may be stupid, as Lane suggests, but his complaint is with the city, not the union.
If Lane thinks that unions are an obstacle to good education then he needs to do more homework. Nordic countries like Finland, that rank at the top in most education measures, have much higher unionization rates among their teachers than the U.S. This suggests that the problem is more likely to lie with the Lane's friends on the other side of the negotiating table.
Lane is also confused about basic economics. He complains that the clout of public sector unions allow their members:
"to enjoy retirement and health-care benefits that are often better than those available to the middle-class citizens whose tax dollars support them" adding "even after Walker’s bill, Wisconsin public employees pay just 5.8 percent of their salary toward their pensions and a modest 12.6 percent of their health-care premiums."
In economics, we look at a workers' total compensation packages. It is understood that benefits that are ostensibly paid by employers are a trade-off for higher wages. When the total compensation packages of public sector workers are compared to those with comparable education and experience in the private sector, they actually get somewhat lower pay.